When I interviewed ProMedica CEO Randy Oostra about his plan to bring 700 fellow employees to downtown Toledo — to the old steam plant and the KeyBank building on the river — he said in the absence of vision, negativity will fill the void.
Negativity is a powerful force, in nature and in people. In a lot of ways, it’s easier than hope.
Some people seem to feel it inoculates them against disappointment. That’s not a good way to live. And it is also bad public policy. Hope is health, for a human being or a city.
The key is to match hope to action, even if it be modest, incremental action.
The ProMedica plan is a huge shot in the arm for this city. It is not a panacea. It does nothing about kids in poverty or tearing down recently built homes when people are homeless.
But it does pump blood to our city’s heart — its downtown. We must not let naysaying, or egos, or competing agendas, stop it.
Some people are already talking about “the parking problem” in connection with the ProMedica initiative, as if it were a problem that is insurmountable.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is more than one way to skin this cat. Parking for the new ProMedica headquarters could be solved in at least three ways. It could be underground, but it need not be. It could include retail, but this may not turn out to be the best way. Parking could be on the same side of Summit Street as the headquarters, but it doesn’t have to be.
We have to, as a community, hang loose on this. Be pragmatic and be flexible. And we have to hang together.
City officials and ProMedica planners should make use of the folks at the Toledo Design Center and the Downtown Toledo Development Corp. — Bill Thomas, Richard Meyers, and Paul Hollenbeck. I met these men last week. They are disciplined and dedicated pros. Working with very little money and on mostly volunteer time, they have scientifically analyzed what the downtown needs in terms of physical development and redevelopment: cityscapes, human and transportation flow, and design. They have written a city plan. What they have found is that our dreams are actually a short reach away. We can save the Nicholas and the Spitzer buildings. We could fill roughly 300 new downtown residences a year, and we aren’t even close to providing that many.
And the ProMedica move makes those and a few other steps that would complete the renaissance possible. Imagine the Toledo Repertoire Theatre downtown near the Valentine. Imagine a central vocational high school — Macomber II — in the Jefferson Center. Imagine an expanded UT presence downtown — maybe the law school, maybe something else.
It’s starting to happen, folks. But we need to bypass the naysayers. Moreover, a lot of people with their own ideas are going to have to give a little.
Hang loose. And hang together.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: email@example.com or 419-724-6266.